Decision on SMS divorce draws flak

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 29 Jul 2003


PETALING JAYA: Women's groups and political movements have expressed disappointment over a recent Syariah Court decision that the pronouncement of divorce via short messaging service (SMS) is legitimate.  

In calling for a review of the Gombak Timur Syariah Court decision that the pronouncement of divorce sent by Shamsudin Latif via SMS to Azida Fazlina Abdul Latif was valid, Puteri Umno legal bureau chief Julita Ilhani Abdul Jabbar said it should not set a precedent for divorce via SMS. 

She said the divorce pronouncement should be filed and verified in court. 

“We are not against males pronouncing divorce, but there are more ethical ways of doing it. When marriages are solemnised in a traditional and Islamic way, it is unfair for divorce to be uttered in an unethical manner,” said Julita Ilhani. 

On July 24, the court ruled that Shamsudin had divorced Azida Fazlina when he sent an SMS stating kalau engkau tak keluar dari rumah mak bapak engkau, jatuh talak tiga (if you don't leave your parents’ house, you will be divorced). 

Umno Youth exco member Shamsul Najmi said although pronouncement of divorce via SMS was valid, men should use it properly by uttering their intention to end the marriage tactfully and courteously. 

“Information technology is fast developing. It is not surprising that people use various means including e-mails and teleconferencing to pronounce their divorce.” 

However, the bigger issue was that the society seemed to disregard good manners, he said. 

Wanita Ikram president Mariam Abdul said women should be required to register with the religious office to get an official letter to verify the divorce before going to court. 

“In a normal divorce case husbands have to produce two witnesses. They should also produce witnesses for divorce through this means. How could divorce via SMS be approved easily?” she added. 

She said divorce via SMS showed that the men were rude and arrogant. 

Sisters in Islam research manager Nik Noriani Nik Badlishah said it should be obvious that announcing divorce through SMS was not courteous.  

Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Ivy Josiah said pronouncement of divorce through SMS was a distant, anonymous and callous way for husbands to inform their wives of their intention to end the marriage. 

She said the SMS method did not allow conciliations between the parties to salvage the marriage, which was unfair. 

“We are against any form of unilateral divorce where women have no say in reaching a solution to marital problems.” 

“Although the divorce was accepted as legal, it is unjust for a husband to inform his wife via SMS, which is distant, cowardly, undignified and rude. It should not be encouraged.” 

Non-governmental organisation Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) also appealed for a review of the ruling, saying that divorces should be handled with due process. 

Suaram's executive director Cynthia Gabrielle said there should be a comprehensive review on how such matters were handled to preserve the dignity of the persons involved.  

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